westbar's blog

Tentative Common Level Ratios figure released

From David Wolfe, Recorder of Deeds, Second Deputy

The State Tax Equalization Board will not be able to complete all Counties Common Level Ratios by July 1, the Board does plan, however, to complete all required calculations and make all required certifications by the end of July.  The tentative figure for the new CLR for Westmoreland County is 4.66, this number is nor absolute or certified at this time.  The STEB anticipates that the number will be accurate.  Once the certified numbers are released the department of revenue will refund any overpayments of tax and will assess and bill any underpayment.

Attention Court-Appointed Attorneys

Pursuant to the court-appointed attorney guidelines, court-appointed counsel are asked to submit Fee Petitions on a timely basis. For criminal cases, fee petitions should be submitted at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing and quarterly thereafter for each case, excluding capital cases, which shall be submitted monthly. For family cases, petitions should be submitted after each review hearing and/or case disposition. If you need a copy of the current guidelines, please contact the Court Administrator’s Office, Danielle Frye, at 724.830.3393.

Jury Commissioners Office Now Accepting On-line Responses to Juror Summons

Westmoreland County jurors may now respond on-line to answer their juror questionnaires as an alternative to mailing the paper form back to the Jury Commissioners Office. In addition, on-line responses allow the juror to provide a cell phone number or email address to be notified of the status of his/her jury service date.

To respond to your Juror Summons on-line, please have your juror number and date of service available, and go to the Westmoreland County website at: http://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us/jury

Fine Print Blurs Who’s in Control of Online Photos

From the May 22, 2011, New York Times

By JOSHUA BRUSTEIN

If you post a photo on the Web, it still belongs to you, right? Well, be sure to read the fine print.

World Entertainment News Network, a news and photo agency, announced this month that it had become the “exclusive photo agency partner” of Twitpic, a service with over 20 million registered users that allows people to upload images and link to them on Twitter. The deal allows the agency to sell images posted on Twitpic for publication, and to pursue legal action against those who use such images commercially without its permission, according to the agency.

“There has been much unauthorized use of Twitpic images which we shall be addressing without delay,” said Lloyd Beiny, the agency’s chief executive.

World Entertainment News, whose photo business revolves largely around shots of celebrities, says it is interested only in the photographs posted to the accounts of people like Britney Spears, Russell Brand and Demi Moore. But the scope of the deal is not clear, and professional photographers are worried that it could allow the agency to profit from any photo posted to Twitpic. Others say Twitpic’s move shows the tenuous control people have over what they post through Internet services.

The extent of that control is typically laid out in the terms of service that users agree to when they sign up for Internet services and smartphone applications. But the more such services people use, the harder it becomes to keep track of the things to which they are agreeing. And of course many terms of service, which are heavy on legal language, include clauses that assert the company’s right to change them without notice.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/technology/23terms.html

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Pennsylvania Continue to Decline

From the May 22, 2011, Tribune-Review

By Bobby Kerlik
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 22, 2011

The number of medical malpractice cases filed against Pennsylvania doctors and hospitals dropped in 2010, the sixth consecutive annual decline.

"In reality, medical malpractice lawsuits are not as prolific as people think," Pittsburgh attorney George Kontos said. "Any good attorney is very cautious about taking a case. I probably reject about 90 percent of people that come to me."

In 2002 — the year malpractice lawsuits peaked at 2,904 — new rules designed to weed out frivolous lawsuits took effect, and experts credit those rules with the decline in lawsuits in the years that followed.

One requires plaintiffs to get another doctor in the same field to sign off on the claims, showing the suit had merit. Another requires malpractice claims to be filed in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred. That prevents lawyers from filing cases in counties where they believe juries will be more sympathetic, lawyers said.

Last year, 1,491 malpractice suits were filed, according to a report released last week by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Read more: Malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania continue to decline - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Notice on Civil/Orphans' Court Motions

NOTICE: The Civil Trial Judges will NOT be hearing civil and orphans’ court motions on the following Fridays:

  • Judge Gary P. Caruso: May 27, 2011; June 10, 2011; July 29, 2011
  • Judge Richard E. McCormick, Jr.: June 24, 2011; August 12, 2011; August 19, 2011; September 16, 2011; September 23, 2011
  • Judge Anthony G. Marsili: July 1, 2011; August 12, 2011

Counsel should make arrangements to present motions on prior or subsequent Fridays.

Pa. Annual Attorney Registration Can Be Completed Online Starting May 2, 2011

The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is pleased to announce the annual attorney registration can be completed online beginning Monday, May 2, 2011.

Attorneys will be able to register to be an e-filer using the court's automated online system. The online process also will allow a firm to register all its attorneys at one time and more efficiently than the previous paper-only method.

Attorney-Client Privilege Goes Both Ways

From the March 2011 Attorney E-Newsletter of The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Supreme Court Declares Two-Way Street for Attorney-Client Privilege

On February 23, 2011, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided an important issue of the law of attorney-client privilege in the case of Gillard v. AIG Insurance Company. The issue presented was whether the attorney-client privilege established in 42 Pa. C.S.A. §5928 applies to communications from attorney to client which are not derivative (i.e., which do not incorporate confidential communications from the client).

The case involved allegations of bad faith by the insurance company. In the course of discovery, the plaintiff sought production of all documents in the file of the law firm representing the defendant insurance company. In its response to the discovery, the defendant’s counsel redacted documents prepared by the law firm, asserting attorney-client privilege. The lower court ordered the redacted documents produced and the Superior Court affirmed, relying upon the holding in Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Fleming, 924 A. 2d 1259 (Pa. Super. 2007) that the statutory attorney-client privilege applies only to communications from client to attorney.

Yale Law School Library Lending Out Therapy Dog for Stressed-Out Students

From New York Magazine

Last fall, the blog Above the Law caught wind of a jokey stunt going on at the Yale Law School Library. In addition to checking out books, students at the top-ranked graduate school could also, it seemed, check out "Monty" (full name General Montgomery), a border terrier mix. The dog would be available to play with students for 30-minute intervals, according to the library catalogue listing. But shortly after ATL discovered this adorable opportunity, the school said that it was just a gag, and that you couldn't really check out the pooch.

And yet now, according to a memo to students, Monty is back in circulation.

Attention Family Law Attorneys

From the Court Administrator's Office

ATTENTION FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS: The Parent Information Form for Custody cases is now available on the Westmoreland County Website (www.co.westmoreland.pa.us) under Forms, Court Administration (Custody). This form is required for all custody cases.

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